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Epochs of the British Army [1891]

By Lieut. Col. Henry S. Spalding, illus. Richard Simkin
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BT169 - Epochs of the British Army, Spalding and Simkin 2
BT169 - Epochs of the British Army, Spalding and Simkin 3
BT169 - Epochs of the British Army, Spalding and Simkin 4
BT169 - Epochs of the British Army, Spaulding and Simkin 5

History of the British army up to 1891. 54 pages plus  eight chromolithographic plates, each one a scene from a particular ‘epoch’: by Spalding’s reckoning, these were the Commonwealth, Restoration, Revolution, Marlborough, Georgian, Peninsular, Crimean & Egyptian Epochs. Handwritten name on the front endpaper: ‘J. Mackenzie / Lt. Queens Rifle 1st. Brigade R.Sr’. Published by W.H. Allen and Co. Limited, of London & Calcutta.

The covers are quite badly damaged and the binding has come apart. However, the pages are in excellent condition, with no foxing, only light browning and some bumped/folded upper corners. All the text is legible and the plates look great. This book would be a fine candidate for restoration, being one of the rarer works illustrated by military artist Richard Simkin. This copy was previously sold at Bonhams on 25th May 2004 as part of a group of Simkin works.

Simkin (1850-1926) was a prolific military artist who painted thousands of watercolours of the uniforms and campaigns of the British Army. He was employed by the War Office to produce recruiting posters and illustrate the Army and Navy Gazette, as well as selling illustrations to numerous publications including the Boy's Own Magazine and The Graphic.

Lieutenant-Colonel Spalding, the author, has his own place in history – serving in the 104th Foot during the Indian Mutiny and in South Africa from 1877-79, including the Zulu War. He commanded the garrison at Rorke’s Drift until the 22nd January 1879, when he left Lieutenant John Chard in temporary command while he searched for their reinforcements, which were overdue in arriving from nearby Helpmekaar. ‘I see you are senior,’ he told Chard ‘so you will be in charge, although, of course, nothing will happen, and I shall be back again this evening, early’. He met his reinforcements at around 3.30pm, but fugitives along the road informed him of the disaster at Insandlwana. All claimed Rorke’s Drift was soon to fall or, as he drew nearer, that it already had. Spalding scouted to just 2 miles from the Drift, and could see light and smoke from the burning hospital and hear rifle fire. He faced a dilemma – to send two companies against a Zulu force of unknown size, at night, in aid of a garrison that seemed to have already fallen – or to retreat and fortify Helpmekaar. He opted to retreat after his men observed Zulus moving to surround the column. Rumours spread that Spalding had deserted his post, but British commander Lord Chelmsford intervened with a letter to the Adjutant General in May confirming that his departure was to hasten the reinforcements, not cowardice. His own service seems to merit little mention in this history – the Indian Mutiny gets one sentence, the Zulu Wars are not discussed at all. Perhaps he considered them too recent, or too personal to view objectively.


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